By TACP Staff on November 03, 2021

For individuals who wish to throw themselves into the unpredictable yet wondrous world of news writing and broadcasting, have insatiable curiosity and thirst for knowledge, and want to be first in line when news happens, then a career as a journalist may be for you.

What Is Journalism?

Journalists gather, create, evaluate, and present news and information. Journalism can be distinguished from other forms of communication, such as email, tweets, opinions, advertising, and propaganda, by certain characteristics. For example, journalism provides verified information so readers or viewers can make informed decisions. Journalism communicates and educates about changing events and issues. Above all else, a journalist strives to keep the public’s trust by providing information and news that is both accurate and valuable.

Because the world of journalism is so broad, and no longer simply defined as ‘someone linked to a media organization who gathers news for gain or livelihood’, it is difficult to pin down a definition that dots all the i’s and crosses all the t’s. That said, journalism can be distinguished from other forms of communication in that it is viewed as much more valuable as a means of providing people with verified information they can use in their everyday lives to make better decisions. Journalists not only find the facts but the truth behind the facts.

Professional journalists live by a code of ethics and standards, which includes truthfulness, objectivity, accuracy, fairness, and impartiality. Yet, while bias and objectivity are of primary importance, some forms of journalism, such as activism, have intentionally embraced a non-objective viewpoint, which is prevalent in much of today’s social media and blogs and other platforms meant to sway the public’s opinions.

A journalist might work as a generalist by writing on many issues, or choose to specialize in certain issues, such as a sports journalist or war journalist. Likewise, depending on the context, a journalist might also be an editorial writer, columnist, or photojournalist.

What Does a Journalist Do?

Using certain methods to gather and present verifiable information, a true journalist places the public good above all else. As the field of journalism is so broad, a journalist may work in one or a variety of areas, such as:

Journalists should have excellent research skills, an intense desire to know and understand a story, investigative aptitude, eagerness, concern, a thirst for the truth, and desire to snoop out a story no matter what it takes. They must also have a good command of news writing and reporting basics, and knowledge of media law. In today’s digital age, journalists must also know mobile and backpack journalism, blogging and web writing, SEO and audience-building platforms, collaboration and crowdsourcing, and how to engage via social media, but above all, a passion for journalism.

Journalist Education Requirements

There is little argument that a degree in journalism will help graduates gain employment and further their career. Earning a degree can offer graduates a solid foundation in the fundamental skills of journalism, advance their writing and research skills, give students access to mentors and internship opportunities, offer training in multi-media (which is now required in many positions), and give students the advantage of interacting with faculty members who can offer valuable advice on career choice and networking.

However, some professionals in the field will argue that a degree is not necessary, and that experience gained through apprenticeships or internships is just as good. This may be the thinking today because of how the journalism industry has had to adjust and change with new advances in technology, and professionals in the field are concerned that education hasn’t kept up with these changes. Still, the advantages that can be gained by earning a degree cannot be overlooked. More importantly, most employers prefer candidates who have earned a degree, mainly because it gives employers the confidence that a prospective employee has learned (and mastered) the fundamental skills of the industry, is devoted to the field, and serious about heir future.

Typically, a journalist earns a bachelor’s degree in journalism, communications, or English. Some students opt to double major and complete studies in journalism and also a subject like business or economics. Today, with the decline in newspaper readership and network news ratings, journalists must also have a thorough multimedia skillset and knowledge. These skills include tweeting and live blogging, WordPress, editing photos, audio editing, and storytelling with software like Storify. They should also know Google Fusion tables, have database journalism skills using Caspio, and interactive storytelling skills through SlideRocket.

Journalism majors will take coursework in reporting, English, feature writing and editing, photojournalism, communications, and journalistic ethics. Additional coursework depends on the school a student chooses to attend – a private journalism school, college or university. Some schools require additional coursework in topics like global cultures, quantitative reasoning, cultural diversity, web skills, news lab, introduction to visual journalism, and proficiency in a foreign language.

Beyond core curriculum, students may choose to concentrate in online media studies, broadcast journalism or print journalism. For instance, students focusing on broadcast journalism will take courses to strengthen production techniques, such as reporting, news and media writing, communication theory, radio and television production, broadcast news writing, media law and ethics, and media management and economics. Most broadcast journalism concentrations will also include workshops.

Those focusing on print journalism may take courses in storytelling basics, reporting on city and county government, news editing, history, communication law, feature article writing, sports writing, and more. While, students concentrating in online media studies will take classes in web design, video media, graphics, and photography, interviewing, and online marketplaces, as well as learn all the software and computer skills necessary to examine the world of mass media and the influences of media on society.

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Where Do Journalists Work?

Typically, journalists work in an office or newsroom and research, conduct interviews, and write the news. However, there are times when field work will be required, and depending on the field of journalism a journalist specializes in there can be a lot or a little opportunity to travel. The work can be mundane and exciting all within a 24-hour period. They work anywhere and anytime news breaks, so flexibility and willingness to work long hours are just part of the job.

Journalists also spend a great deal of time analyzing press releases, interviewing subjects, researching and verifying facts, developing story ideas and news, and cultivating sources. The job may entail on-the-spot reporting, anchoring a news desk, taking photos, or producing news content.

In 2014, about one in six journalists were self-employed. Most reporters and correspondents worked for newspapers or in radio or television.

Journalist Salary and Job Outlook

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reporters, correspondents and broadcast news analysts will see a ten-percent decline in jobs between 2018 and 2028. This is due in part because of declining advertising budgets and readership. However, because of the growing popularity of receiving news via television and the Internet, many believe that journalism is alive and well and jobs will continue to develop and grow.

In 2018, the average annual salary for journalists (working in most fields) was about $43,490. The average pay for broadcast news analysts was $64,600, and the median annual pay for reporters and correspondents was $41,260. Individuals with little or no experience earned less than $23,490 per year, whereas those with years of experience earned more than $100,930.

Most journalists work full-time, except those who freelance, who work variable hours depending on whether or not they have an assignment. The work is fast-paced and can be stressful, especially if working to meet deadlines. Many journalists work additional hours as needed in order to follow breaking news.

Helpful Organizations for Journalists